The Central Coast Mariners have left it as late as possible to earn a point in the opening match of the new National Youth League campaign, with a 93rd minute David D’Apuzzo strike securing a thrilling 1-all draw with Adelaide United.
The Central Coast Mariners have left it as late as possible to earn a point in the opening match of the new National Youth League campaign, with a 93rd minute David D-Apuzzo strike securing a thrilling 1-all draw with Adelaide United.
“I think a draw is probably a fair result because they outplayed us for long periods. We had a few players who took a while to settle, which is understandable, playing for the first time at this level, but the benchmark of opportunity was fantastic, and we probably proved to ourselves we can play at this level,” said Mariners NYL Head Coach Tony Walmsley.
The Mariners looked to shake off some pre-match nerves early, Nick Fitzgerald forcing a good save from Adelaide custodian Mark Birighitti, looking for a good performance to partly make up for the disappointment of being overlooked for the Qantas Young Socceroos squad for the upcoming U20-s World Cup.
Wolry Wolfe and Fitzgerald both saw shots from distance sail over the bar, while Birighitti was called into action again soon after, getting low down to deny Brady Smith, after a lovely through ball by Adam Ormsby
But after a long period of dominance from the visitors, Adelaide very nearly went ahead, Wolfe making a crucial goal-line clearance to deny Francesco Monterosso.
The Jamaican International then went close to giving the Mariners- Youth the lead on 25 minutes but headed a Fitzgerald cross over the bar.
Both sides were keen to exert their dominance, with some strong challenges going in from both sides, resulting in three bookings in the opening half.
The home side went closes to breaking the deadlock, when Joel Allwright latched on to a cross from Daniel Mullen, his first time effort cannoning into the crossbar, and ensuring honours would remain even at the break.
Mariners- senior squad member Matthew Lewis knows the National Youth League well having featured 16 times in the inaugural campaign, and could have slotted his second goal early in the second half, as he raced away to be one-on-one with Birighitti, only for the Reds- ‘keeper to come racing off his line and produce a goal-saving challenge.
Wolfe conceded a free-kick right on the edge of the box just beyond the hour, but luckily for the Central Coast, Dane Milovanovic-s well struck set-piece went just wide of the far post.
Mitchell Mallia shot just wide as Tony Walmsley-s side pressed for their first goal of the season, but that honour fell to Adelaide, against the run of play.
Replacement goalkeeper Nik Matic did well to get down to a powerful Joe Costa drive, but he could do little to stop Francesco Monterosso tapping in the rebound.
With the clock ticking, David D-Apuzzo went on a mazy run to the edge of the Adelaide area and launched a rocket goalbound, but the gloves of Birighitti again denied the Mariners, while Matic produced an equally fine save at the other end to keep Monterosso from scoring his second, after a clever turn and shot.
And Matic would again prove a brick wall at the back on 89 minutes, with a brilliant diving save full length to his right to block a Brett Rayner header, before impressively blocking Monterosso soon after.
“It-s not often that the man of the match probably only played for 30 minutes, but he was outstanding for the 30 minutes he did play after replacing Redders (Andrew Redmayne). Nik Matic was outstanding, he made some great saves and his distribution was great as well.
“Other great performers were Nick Fitzgerald on debut, was fantastic going forward, Gavin Forbes was good when he came on up front, and David D-Apuzzo when he moved into the midfield, and earned the chance he got to sneak the point for us in the end,” said Walmsley.
With Adelaide appearing to have wrapped up victory and the referee reaching for the whistle for the final time, Mitchell Mallia took the ball into the left channel, before cutting back to D-Apuzzo, who proved the hero, coolly slotting past Birighitti, and securing a point for Walmsley-s side in a dramatic end to a pulsating first 90 minutes of the campaign.
“At any given time it was a case of six or seven players doing OK and coping, and another three or four struggling a little bit. In those good spots we created a few chances, and so did they.
“Credit to the boys for managing to play as well as they did under those circumstances, in six weeks time we will be a lot better than we were today, and next week against the Gold Coast hopefully we-ll step up another gear and put in an even better performance,” Walmsley said.
The Mariners’ NYL team’s first home match of the Hyundai A-League 2009/10 season will be against Gold Coast United on Saturday, 19 September. Kick-off is at 4:45pm. Tickets for this match are available online here or by phoning 132 849.
Mariners Memberships for the Hyundai A-League 2009/10 season are now available online by clicking here or by phoning 1300 767 442.
Central Coast Mariners 1. Andrew REDMAYNE (gk) (20. Nik MATIC (gk) 59-), 3. David D-APUZZO, 4. Matthew LIDDALL, 5. Luka DUKIC, 6. Emmanuel GIANNAROS (c), 7. Matthew LEWIS, 8. Nick FITZGERALD, 10. Wolry WOLFE, 12. Graz TRIMBOLI (9. Gavin FORBES 32-), 14. Brady SMITH (17. David GULLO 59-), 15. Adam ORMSBY (11. Mitchell MALLIA 59-)..
Unused Subs Nil.
Yellow Cards Trimboli 31-, Ormsby 39-, D-Apuzzo 49-, Wolfe 53-, Forbes 59-, Dukic 75-
Red Cards None
Goals D-Apuzzo 90+3-
Adelaide United 1. Mark BIRIGHITTI (gk), 2. Daniel MULLEN, 3. Michael DOYLE (12. Alex SUNASKY 52-), 4. Dane MILOVANOVIC, 5. Kingsley FRANCIS (9. Brett RAYNER 52-), 6. Joe COSTA, 7. Joel ALLWRIGHT (10. Liam WOODING 53-), 8. Matt MULLEN (c), 11. Perry MITRIS, 15. Francesco MONTEROSSO, 17. Matthew LECKIE (Joel ALLWRIGHT 90).
Unused Subs 20. Codey LARKIN (gk).
Yellow Cards Doyle 43-, Monterosso 45+1-
Red Cards None
Goals Monterosso 78-
Referee Regis QUEFFEC